Application of organic petrography in North American shale petroleum systems: A review

International Journal of Coal Geology
By:  and 



Organic petrography via incident light microscopy has broad application to shale petroleum systems, including delineation of thermal maturity windows and determination of organo-facies. Incident light microscopy allows practitioners the ability to identify various types of organic components and demonstrates that solid bitumen is the dominant organic matter occurring in shale plays of peak oil and gas window thermal maturity, whereas oil-prone Type I/II kerogens have converted to hydrocarbons and are not present. High magnification SEM observation of an interconnected organic porosity occurring in the solid bitumen of thermally mature shale reservoirs has enabled major advances in our understanding of hydrocarbon migration and storage in shale, but suffers from inability to confirm the type of organic matter present. Herein we review organic petrography applications in the North American shale plays through discussion of incident light photographic examples. In the first part of the manuscript we provide basic practical information on the measurement of organic reflectance and outline fluorescence microscopy and other petrographic approaches to the determination of thermal maturity. In the second half of the paper we discuss applications of organic petrography and SEM in all of the major shale petroleum systems in North America including tight oil plays such as the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Niobrara, and shale gas and condensate plays including the Barnett, Duvernay, Haynesville-Bossier, Marcellus, Utica, and Woodford, among others. Our review suggests systematic research employing correlative high resolution imaging techniques and in situ geochemical probing is needed to better document hydrocarbon storage, migration and wettability properties of solid bitumen at the pressure and temperature conditions of shale reservoirs.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Application of organic petrography in North American shale petroleum systems: A review
Series title International Journal of Coal Geology
DOI 10.1016/j.coal.2016.06.010
Volume 163
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Description 44 p.
First page 8
Last page 51
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